An elegant 18th century Cornish townhouse

Influences from distinctly different eras, together with exceptional artwork, combine beautifully in this artist’s elegant 18th-century Cornish townhouse. Feature Sharon Parsons. Photographs Richard Gadsby.

18th century Cornish townhouse

The exterior

The front façade of the 18th-century house boasts original features, from the sash windows and architectural detail to the intricate iron balustrade on the first floor. Below the wonderfully preserved fanlight, the front door is painted in Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball.

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18th century Cornish townhouse

The sitting room

A gentle colour scheme provides a backdrop to an eclectic mix of furniture and objects in the main sitting room. The original black marble fireplace surround in the downstairs reception room remained, but the insert had been removed, so Hannah replaced it with this cast-iron square version from The Fireplace and Stove Centre.

The painting above it is by Graham Sutherland and was bought in a Bonhams sale. The Eames Lounge chair and stool were bought at Phillips auction house in the 1990s, ‘It’s the most comfortable chair I own!’ says Hannah.

18th century Cornish townhouse

Specially made box shelves display some of Hannah’s treasured collections of pottery, etchings and artwork.

18th century Cornish townhouse

The original alcove frames a striking painting of a hare after Dürer’s original. The artist is Stephen Bitterolf, and it was purchased at the Long and Ryle Gallery at the London Art Fair many years ago.

18th century Cornish townhouse

The kitchen

In contrast to the rest of the house, the light-filled kitchen is contemporary, sleek and practical. The white Eames-style chairs were found on eBay, as was the classic G Plan Fresco sideboard. The bold seascape above it is by Hannah.

18th century Cornish townhouse

The vintage coffee set on the top right-hand shelf is Bronte from Hornsea Pottery.

18th century Cornish townhouse

What would once have been back-to-back fireplaces in two rooms had already been reconfigured, and is now the perfect spot for this dual woodburner from Woodwarm Stoves. It links the snug area to the kitchen beyond. The neat vintage-style chairs both came from Habitat – the one with the black seat, Jed, is still available. The fish painting is an early work by Judy Buxton.

18th century Cornish townhouse

The hall

The elegant hall has been sympathetically renovated with a chequered marble floor from Mandarin Stone. The artwork is by Scottish artist Joan Eardley.

18th century Cornish townhouse

The bedrooms

In the main bedroom, the walls are painted in Antimony by Fired Earth. The black and white artwork above the original fireplace is by Hannah. The mid-century bookshelf is from West Elm, and the little wooden chest was bought by Hannah many years ago.

18th century Cornish townhouse

Hannah’s daughter Rosa’s room has a bohemian feel. The bed is from Loaf, and the bedcover and curtains are both from Anthropologie. The old pine chest has been in the family for many years, as has the small antique rug. The larger one is from Urban Outfitters.

18th century Cornish townhouse

She turned a small room adjoining her own bedroom into a cosy study.

18th century Cornish townhouse

The bathroom

The family bathroom is sleek and simple.

18th century Cornish townhouse

High above the River Fal in Cornwall, the elegant sweep of a gracefully appointed terrace in Falmouth’s conservation area had long intrigued fine artist Hannah Woodman. A well-known architectural landmark, it was built between 1830 and 1850 for the sea merchants and captains who resided in the historic maritime town. ‘I’d driven by the terrace for years and was always reminded of the big Georgian house in Exeter I’d grown up in,’ says Hannah. ‘When I discovered that one of the houses here was for sale, I couldn’t wait to view it.’

The moment she walked into the hall, light streaming in through the huge fanlight above the door, she had no doubt that this was the family home she wanted for herself and her three daughters. ‘It was like coming home – I loved the generous proportions and sense of space and, of course, its position overlooking the river was amazing,’ she says.

Some original features were in situ, and the wide door and windows at the front were just as they’d always been. ‘Even now, I love looking through the panes of original glass that have a slight ripple, and imagine the people who lived here before me, gazing at the same view…’

‘However, I was still well aware I’d be taking on a major renovation – decades of unsympathetic alterations had definitely taken their toll. The house had been through various guises: at one point it had even been converted into flats, and had also been tenanted by previous owners, so part of the upstairs had been made into a bedsit.’

After rigorous planning, work on the Grade II-listed property could begin. ‘The house had to work for the way we live today, but I wanted to update it without obliterating the past,’ says Hannah. ‘I worked with the original footprint too, rather than making any extensive changes.’ The renovation took six months, during which time Hannah researched everything, from fittings to finishes.

Once the bones had been made good, Hannah turned her attention to the decor. Much of the furniture had been bought over the years, or are heirlooms, while other pieces have been carefully sourced. ‘I thought a lot about what would work where, and what I really needed to invest in,’ she explains. ‘I always do my research and rarely buy on spec. In my twenties, I’d save up to buy Georgian furniture, like little tables, blanket boxes and chests, as they were more affordable at the time. I used to enjoy pottering around antiques shops like Topsham Quay Antiques Centre: I bought an oak chest there when I was 22, which sits at the bottom of my bed. I’d never be without it.’

Along with classic Georgian pieces which, not unsurprisingly, are perfectly at home here, mid-century items and decorative objects from the 1960s and 70s have a strong presence. Here, again, Hannah’s childhood home proved a definitive influence.

‘My mum loved antiques – 18th and early 19th-century – while my dad was a huge fan of mid-century design. It resulted in a very eclectic mix of styles, though, at the time, it didn’t seem unusual at all,’ says Hannah. ‘I think there are real design parallels between both eras, which is why nothing seems to jar. Both have an underlying simplicity and symmetry, which is unfussy and clean.’

It’s not only the furniture that brings such a sense of individuality to Hannah’s home. As an artist, she is highly attuned to creativity in all its forms and, in every room, paintings, etchings, ceramics and sculptures are on display.

‘My parents really appreciated art and would often visit artists’ studios at the weekend: our family home was full of modernist paintings, ceramics and textiles,’ she says. ‘I inherited their enthusiasm for beautiful things, but it’s more than that. I love the idea of items being slowly collected and treasured over the years. It means a home is layered with pieces imbued with stories and memories. They really help to make a home, and that’s certainly been the case here.’

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Hannah’s work can be viewed by appointment at her studio in Penryn, hannahwoodman.co.uk